Project Monte is a memorial to my beautiful Saint Bernard, Monte.
Monte is what is known as a “cross-over dog.” When I first adopted Monte, I used what is known as “balanced training,” a combination of reinforcement for desirable behaviors and corrections for what I then perceived to be unacceptable behavior. I did this not because I liked putting a prong on my dog, but because at the time I believed it was the only way I could address his reactivity toward other dogs and many people.
Luckily, I found a positive reinforcement trainer who specialized in clicker training. From him, I learned a new way to understand my dog and improve his behavior and our relationship at the same time. I became so passionate about clicker training and positive reinforcement I made it my career and am now the proud owner of Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training in Binghamton, New York.
I made it my mission to spread the word about positive reinforcement through sharing Monte’s story with anyone who would listen. In 2009, I submitted Monte’s story to the Association of Pet Dog Trainer’s John Fisher essay contest, sponsored by Dogwise. My essay, Dances with Dogs, won the contest. Part of my prize was a trip to San Fransisco for the annual conference, where I beamed with pride as hundreds of the world’s best trainers applauded our relationship, built on teamwork and compassion.
Monte became suddenly and seriously debilitated in the summer of 2010, when he was diagnosed with a congenital spinal abnormality which quickly resulted in neurological impairment and loss of hind limb function. Ten days after his diagnosis, my husband and I made the difficult decision to forever release him from the pain he was in.
Not until I lost Monte did I realize how many people and dogs were effected by his life. I should have known that his love was not only too big for one home, but too big even for one state or continent. Within hours of his death, I started receiving dozens beautiful pictures of friends’ dogs, posing with signs that said, “Thank you, Monte.” I was amazed and touched to see how far his influence extended, a love that literally spanned the planet.
For those pet parents who make the “leap of faith” to positive training, there is something very special about the dog that brought about that change. Perhaps, like me, you thought you knew a lot about dogs until you found the one that forced you to rethink the cultural paradigm of dominance and “bad dogs,” and adopt a new paradigm of science, ethical treatment of non-human (and human!) beings, and compassionate training.
As a result, I have formed Project Monte. My goal for this site will be to share Monte’s story, allow pet parents and professionals to share the stories of their crossover dogs, and disprove common myths about positive reinforcement training. Perhaps the last great gift he can pass on to pet parents everywhere is the gift of compassion.